Booming Sri Lanka beckons Big Apple!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014 00:50 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Invest Sri Lanka capital markets forum of CSE-SEC in New York ends with record participation and strong interests
Text and Pix By Nisthar Cassim With post-war rebound gathering momentum according to the Government, Sri Lanka’s capital markets last week wooed US investors to benefit from unfolding unprecedented opportunities. Staging the biggest and perhaps the most successful to date in the series of global investor awareness exercises, the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jointly hosted the Invest Sri Lanka Forum in New York on 4 September 2014. Over 150 US-based fund managers (with over $ 100 million under their management),or institutional investors, financial advisors and individual investors attended the event held at the iconic J.W. Marriot Essex House Hotel opposite the famous Central Park in New York City. Overall the Forum drew around 220 participants and the opening session as well as multiple one-on-one meetings for Sri Lankan listed companies highlighted the post-war rebound in Sri Lanka and the upside for corporate earnings and returns for investors in both equity and debt markets. Reinforcing the Sri Lanka message at the Forum were Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation and Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal, Sri Lankan Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Dr. Palitha Kohona, Deputy Investment Promotion Minister Faiszer Musthapha, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, and Colombo Stock Exchange Chairman Vajira Kulatilaka. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Major General Shavendra Silva, SEC Commissioner Zuraish Hashim and several senior officials from the Central Bank including Deputy Governor Dr. P.N. Weerasinghe also participated. The event was held in association with the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. and event partners Bloomberg and ACHAM Sri Lanka. A record 14 listed companies participated and they were represented at chairman, managing director, CEO or director levels. The companies were John Keells Holdings PLC (represented by President Krishan Balendra), Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC (represented by Chairman K.G. D.D. Dheerasinghe and Managing Director/CEO J. Durairatnam), Hatton National Bank PLC (represented by MD/CEO Jonathan Alles), National Development Bank PLC (represented by Director/CEO Rajendra Theagarajah), DFCC Bank (represented by CEO Arjun Fernando), Hayleys PLC (represented by Head of Business Development Deshal de Mel), Access Engineering PLC (Executive Director/COO Rohana Fernando), People’s Leasing & Finance PLC (represented by CEO D.P. Kumarage), Hemas Holdings PLC (represented by Chairman Husein Esufally), Softlogic Holdings PLC (represented by Chairman Ashok Pathirage), Tokyo Cement Company (Lanka) PLC (represented by Manager Special Projects Praveen Gnanam), LAUGFS Holdings PLC (represented by Chairman W.K. Wegapitiya), Sunshine Holdings PLC (represented by Managing Director V. Govindasamy) and MTD Walkers PLC (represented by Group Executive Deputy Chairman Jehan Amaratunga). Several other senior management personnel from these companies were present as well. Additionally nearly 20 market participants including brokers formed the Sri Lankan contingent.  Among them were Acuity Stock Brokers and Acuity Partners, Asha Phillip, Asia Securities, Bartleet Religare, Candor Securities, Capital Trust Securities, LOLC, SC Securities, JKSB, NDB Securities, Softlogic, Taprobane Securities, Ceybank Asset Management, Namal, CT CLSA, First Capital Equities, CAL Partners, NL Equities and York Street Partners. Whilst Dr. Amunugama, Cabraal, Dr. Kohona and Kulatilaka made brief presentations, the view from outside was given by Ruchir Sharma, Head of Emerging Markets from Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Advisor at TPG Capital and Stephen Jonathan FX Application Specialist at Bloomberg. The presentations which highlighted success as well as challenges for Sri Lanka were followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Amunugama, Musthapha, Cabraal, Kohona, SEC Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Kulatilaka. Private sector firms met up with a large number of US fund managers either in one to one meetings or group meetings. Some of the companies said the individual meetings were effective and proved fruitful. Most of the fund managers they met were new whilst one company confirmed that buying interest was expressed in one of the meetings itself. Most of the fund managers had been positive about Sri Lanka and the companies whilst liquidity or lack of quantities was a major issue for most of the foreign investors. New York’s was the third ‘Invest Sri Lanka – Investor Forum’ for the year, with previous Forums being held in Singapore and London in January and May respectively. Last year they were held in Mumbai, Hong Kong and Dubai.